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Publication Date
1 June 2024

Mid-century climate change impacts on tornado-producing tropical cyclones



Tornadoes are a co-occurring extreme that can be produced by landfalling tropical cyclones (TCs). These tornadoes can exacerbate the loss of life and property damage caused by the TC from which they were spawned. It is uncertain how the severe weather environments of landfalling TCs may change in a future climate and how this could impact tornado activity from TCs. In this study, we investigated four TCs that made landfall in the U.S. and produced large tornado outbreaks. We performed four-member ensembles of convective-allowing (4-km resolution) regional climate model simulations representing each TC in the historical climate and a mid-twenty-first century future climate. To identify potentially tornadic storms, or TC-tornado (TCT) surrogates, we used thresholds for three-hourly maximum updraft helicity and radar reflectivity, as tornadoes are not resolved in the model. We found that the ensemble-mean number of TCT-surrogates increased substantially (56–299%) in the future, supported by increases in most-unstable convective available potential energy, surface-to-700-hPa bulk wind shear, and 0–1-km storm-relative helicity in the tornado-producing region of the TCs. On the other hand, future changes in most-unstable convective inhibition had minimal influence on future TCT-surrogates. This provides robust evidence that tornado activity from TCs may increase in the future. Furthermore, TCT-surrogate frequency between 00Z and 09Z increased for three of the four cases, suggesting enhanced tornado activity at night, when people are asleep and more likely to miss warnings. All of these factors indicate that TC-tornadoes may become more frequent and a greater hazard in the future, compounding impacts from future increases in TC winds and precipitation. 

Forbis, Dakota C., Christina M. Patricola, Emily Bercos-Hickey, and William A. Gallus. 2024. “Mid-Century Climate Change Impacts On Tornado-Producing Tropical Cyclones”. Weather And Climate Extremes 44. Elsevier BV: 100684. doi:10.1016/j.wace.2024.100684.
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